Students build rockets, compete for $20K national prize at Air Force Museum

Credit: Eileen McClory/ Staff

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Credit: Eileen McClory/ Staff

On Saturday, 19 teams from six states competed at the American Rocketry Challenge National Finals at the Air Force Museum.

“This is a great way for kids to be introduced to aerospace type jobs,” said Randy Boadway, owner of eRockets on Springfield Street, which provides model rocket kits.

The teams, made up of high school and middle school students, were some of the top 100 teams competing in the finals across the nation.

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Middle school students from Richards R-V School District, West Plains, Missouri, compete in the National Finals of The American Rocketry Challenge on Saturday at the Air Force Museum. Eileen McClory / Staff

Middle school students from Richards R-V School District, West Plains, Missouri, compete in the National Finals of The American Rocketry Challenge on Saturday at the Air Force Museum. Eileen McClory / Staff

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Middle school students from Richards R-V School District, West Plains, Missouri, compete in the National Finals of The American Rocketry Challenge on Saturday at the Air Force Museum. Eileen McClory / Staff

Competitors must build a rocket, from scratch, that can carry an egg without breaking it. They have two flights in the championship, one that hits 775 feet and one slightly higher. The flights are also timed to between 40 and 42 seconds.

When there is not a global pandemic, the national competition takes place in Virginia. But this year the organizers of the challenge, the Aerospace Industry Association and the National Association of Rocketry, chose to have the competition over two weekends in June at several sites across the country.

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Middle school students from Richards R-V School District, West Plains, Missouri, compete in the National Finals of The American Rocketry Challenge on Saturday at the Air Force Museum. Eileen McClory / Staff

Middle school students from Richards R-V School District, West Plains, Missouri, compete in the National Finals of The American Rocketry Challenge on Saturday at the Air Force Museum. Eileen McClory / Staff

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Middle school students from Richards R-V School District, West Plains, Missouri, compete in the National Finals of The American Rocketry Challenge on Saturday at the Air Force Museum. Eileen McClory / Staff

The results will be recorded, and the winners of the competition will be announced in late June.

Cody Lovan, a middle school science and engineering teacher for the Richards R-V school district out of West Plains, Missouri, said a few kids on the team she helps mentor are considering careers in aerospace when they would not have before.

“So for me, it’s seeing them change; realize they can do things that they probably thought they couldn’t accomplish,” she said. “They are becoming rocket scientists, really.”

It’s not easy to make these rockets. For most teams, it takes at least one full school year to get a rocket ready for launch.

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Gage Willis, left, and Billy Satterfield, right, of North Marion High School, Farmington, West Virginia, prepare to competition in The American Rocketry Challenge at the Air Force Museum on Saturday. Eileen McClory / STAFF

Gage Willis, left, and Billy Satterfield, right, of North Marion High School, Farmington, West Virginia, prepare to competition in The American Rocketry Challenge at the Air Force Museum on Saturday. Eileen McClory / STAFF

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Gage Willis, left, and Billy Satterfield, right, of North Marion High School, Farmington, West Virginia, prepare to competition in The American Rocketry Challenge at the Air Force Museum on Saturday. Eileen McClory / STAFF

But the payoff could be huge: the first-place winner of the competition will win $20,000 for the team and $1,000 for their school. Even the fifth-place team could win up to $8,500 in cash.

Dave Combs, president of Wright Stuff Rocketeers, a local rocket enthusiasts club that helped organize the Dayton area launch, said there’s a lot of factors for a team to consider. The temperature of the air, the level of humidity, how high they must shoot for during their launch, all require critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“It’s real science and real application, and these are some exceptionally sharp kids,” he said.

The second day of the rocket competition at the museum is on Sunday. Several Ohio teams will be competing, including teams from Minster, Sylvania and West Chester.The competition is not open to the public.

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.

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